Rory McIlroy exited the Volvo World Match Play Championship believing his putting is coming round in the nick of time as the Race to Dubai hots up.
The Ulsterman, 20, failed to make it through to the semi-finals at Finca Cortesin despite a two up win over Simon Dyson and a four hole demolition of an out of sorts Henrik Stenson.
Burly Argentinian Angel Cabrera barred the Holywood starlet's route to the last four when he recovered from a two hole defeat to Stenson in the morning with a crushing seven hole win over Dyson after lunch.
Like McIlroy, the Masters champion finished the round robin group stages with two wins out of three.
But he progressed because he was 10 holes up for his three ties compared to just one up for McIlroy, whose five hole defeat to the big man from Cordoba on Thursday weighed like a millstone around his neck.
Cabrera will now face the lone European survivor, England's Ross Fisher, in today's 36-hole semi-finals with American Ryder Cup star Anthony Kim set to face Australia's Robert Allenby a repeat of their controversial Presidents Cup match three weeks ago.
McIlroy's recent lack of spark on the greens cost him dear against Cabrera but he's convinced that he has eliminated the technical thoughts that have made him “wooden” on the greens.
“I've got a bit more flow back in my putting, just taking one look at my target and hitting it. That's all I can do,” he said. “I trust my line and hit it and if it goes in, it goes in.
“I did what I could today but Cabrera has just played too well against Simon this afternoon. I played well today but all the damage was done yesterday.
“I didn't start holing putts until today really and played well in both sessions. Henrik struggled and I'll finish second in the group so it is not too bad.”
McIlroy will pick up €150,000 for a share of fifth place, though ‘only’ €107,575 will count towards the Race to Dubai.
He heads east on Monday for a three week run that includes the last three counting events for the Race to Dubai — the WGC-HSBC Champions, the UBS Hong Kong Open and the Dubai World Championship — before finishing up his season with a trip to China with Graeme McDowell for the World Cup and then rounding off in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City.
With Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood, number two Martin Kaymer and fourth placed Paul Casey all failing to make it through to the last four in Spain, McIlroy has not lost ground in the battle to become the youngest winner of the Harry Vardon Trophy.
But he will be peeking anxiously at the leadboards for Fisher's name after the 28-year old Englishman edged his way into the last four.
Fisher is an inexplicable seventh in the Race to Dubai despite reaching the semi-finals of the WGC Accenture World Match Play in February and then challenging for victory in the US Open and the Open.
He had the lowest aggregate score of the 12 players who made the cut in all four majors this year but now has a golden opportunity to end a 16-month winless streak stretching back to last season's European Open and become a player in the Race to Dubai.
Fisher said: “The Race to Dubai is a huge thing, a massive thing.
“I'm a fair bit behind Westy, Martin Kaymer and Rory. Obviously it's great for me that I've made it to the semis.”